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I recently completed a binding for the annual Designer Bookbinders exhibition entitled, “Covered”, that will be taking place at St Bride Foundation from the 3rd to the 13th of May 2016. The private view is being held tomorrow night (the 3rd May) and will showcase bindings by 35 binders – both members of DB and a few select invited binders. I will be invigilating at the exhibition this Thursday coming between 11am and 2pm and look forward to having a proper look at the bindings then as it is always difficult to see everything properly on the night of the private view given the volume of people present!

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The text block is a 1905 publication (Longmans, Green, and Co., London, New York and Bombay) of British Butterflies and Moths and the book contains twelve beautifully hand-coloured plates, the first of which appears next to the title page – pictured below behind a protective sheet.

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The eleven other plates appear at the end of the text block, each as vibrant as the next!

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The book block was a gift and had been sitting in my “books to bind” drawer for a few years and I was pleased to finally have an opportunity to get my hands on it! I did another similar binding in 2014, “The Natural History of British Butterflies” , the text block also had similar hand-coloured plates in it.

For this binding I chose to base my design on the idea of an entomological specimen tray, like those you see at such places as the Natural History Museum in London. I started by scanning and printing out a number of butterflies from within the text block and arranging them into rows to run across the covers and spine of the binding.

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I also did a layout for the sample board at the same time.

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After working on this it was then possible to plan the shapes of the leather onlays by tracing the butterfly outlines onto tracing paper.

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I was then able to cut out leather onlays to the required shapes and stick them down onto the body leather of the binding by using the tracing paper template as a guide.

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Once all of the leather onlays had been stuck down the leather was reversed and back-pared in preparation of the embroidery work to begin.

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Each butterfly has it’s own linear markings and I was able to embellish the coloured leather inlays by embroidering using coloured threads on top.

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I used a variety of stitches and colours to build up the pattern on the wings and body of each butterfly, finishing with metallic threads on each on to add some highlights.

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I lost count of the number of stitches it took to complete the design but my fingers could definitely confirm that it was a lot!

The completed embroidery on the front of the leather…

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And on the back…

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To add to the effect of the butterflies being in a display case, I added “pins” to their bodies as if holding them in place. I used brass pins for this and had to devise a way of attaching them to the three butterflies that were placed on the spine piece of leather. For the pins going through the butterflies on the covers it was possible to drill straight through the boards and bend them over on the inside of the boards, however this was not feasible at the spine as it was not possible to insert straight pins through into the spine of the binding.

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I pierced a hole through the leather, inserted the pin and then bent it flat down on the reverse of the leather. The bulk of the rounded brass wire was filed down flat and then this was then secured in place by some stitches. Once the leather was pasted to the book, the rest of the bulk of the brass was absorbed by the inlays and the embroidery work and it was not possible to tell that there was any extra material behind so I was pleased with the outcome.

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I then stuck the leather to the book with paste and left it overnight to dry. The following day I was able to add the remaining pins into the twelve butterflies on the front and back covers by drilling though the boards and bending the pins over into channels on the inside of the boards.

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The inside of the boards were then infilled with watercolour paper, and an additional paper layer stuck down and sanded flush.

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The doublures and endpapers were designed to be like a close-up of a butterfly wing, mirroring each other. They were first patterned with black ink, then watercolour paints. Further colour was added through the use of coloured pencils and embroidery.

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I also pierced lozenges out of them with a scalpel and the cut-outs were then stuck elsewhere on the paper to add further pattern. The board behind the cut-outs was painted black with acrylic paint before the paper was stuck down.

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The final piece of the cover design was to add numbers to each of the butterflies. I gold-tooled these numbers onto dark brown leather and cut them out into circles to use on the book cover. I did enough to also use in the box lid and on a key to identify each of the butterflies.

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I first stuck them to the sample board to work out spacing.

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I then worked on sticking them down onto the book cover.

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For the box lid I cut out fifteen of the remaining scanned butterflies and painted their antennae black. I creased their wings and stuck their bodies down to a Dibond panel that I covered with paper. The tooled numbers were glued down and brass pins inserted into drilled holes, like on the book cover, but protruding by about 10mm.

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Once all the butterflies were in place I was able to create a “key” to be housed inside the wooden box so the butterflies could each be identified. This key used the same tooled numbers and I managed to find a font to match the one from the indexes inside the text block.

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The binding now appears on my website with more photos of the book and box. I’ll leave you with a few here, plus details of the binding and inspiration about the design as they appear on my site. I will add a photo at the end of this post of my binding in the exhibition once I have seen it later this week!

FULL BOOK:

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BOOK AND BOX…

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BOX LID DETAIL…

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BOX TITLE…

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ORIGINAL GILT EDGE AND SEWN HEADBANDS…

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As promised, a bit after this blog post was published I’m adding a couple of photographs from the Covered exhibition at St Bride Foundation…

 

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– Full leather binding, sewn on three tapes, covered in brown goatskin

– The leather is embroidered over coloured leather onlays with silk threads using a variety of different embroidery stitches

– The butterflies have carbon-tooled antennae

– There are brass “pins’ inserted through the book boards, as if holding the butterflies in place

– The endpapers and doublures are patterned with ink, watercolours, coloured pencils and sewn detail

– The endpapers doublures are also pierced with a scalpel, with the cut out pieces glued elsewhere on them

– The original gilt edge has been retained

– Tulip wood box which has been routed, mitred and glued

– Acrylic window inset into the top of the box to view paper butterflies, like an entomological specimen tray

 

Description of design

This book contains twelve wonderful hand-coloured plates of British butterflies. Each butterfly that appears on the cover is from inside the text block and is numbered with hand-tools, as if in an entomological tray. The endpapers and doubures were designed to look like a close up of a butterfy wing, mirroring eachother as in nature. I pierced holes in them to add a fragility.

The box contains more butterflies in it’s lid and is designed to be like an entomological specimen box in a museum and uses tacks to hold the butterflies in place. There is a key to the book and box butterflies in the box lid.

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